February 1, 2008

Manos video played in court

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on the Manos trial, where the three-and-a-half-hour police interrogation of Marie Manos was played on videotape.

On the opinion page, Mike Lane of Dryden writes to support Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's Democratic primary. (Personally, I'm wishing Edwards was still in the race, but since he isn't, I guess I have to make a decision by Tuesday.)

Posted by simon at 12:36 PM Comment

February 4, 2008

More Manos trial news

It's been a busy few days, and I need to catch up with the Journal before it becomes too much to catch up with...

Saturday's paper had the latest testimony from the Manos trial, and today's has reflections on the events in the courtroom.

Saturday also had the TC3 Dean's List, and a letter from Eveline Ferretti of Freeville supporting Barack Obama in tomorrow's presidential primary.

Ithaca School District residents I spoke with over the weekend are definitely talking about the Journal's piece on school board discussions about a possible departure for Superintendent Judith Pastel.

Today's Briefly in Tompkins notes that assesment notices for Dryden won't be mailed until February 29th, with hearings March 10th and 11th.

Posted by simon at 12:25 PM Comment

February 5, 2008

Primary polls

It's presidential primary day, and polling places will be open from noon to 9:00pm. Please remember that in New York State, only voters registered to a party can vote in that party's primary, so only Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary and only Republicans can vote in the Republican primary. Depending on which district you live in (see the district map (597KB PDF)), you can vote at:

  1. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  2. Freeville Fire Station - 21 Union Street, Freeville (map).
  3. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  4. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  5. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  6. Dryden Village Hall - 16 South Street, Dryden (map).
  7. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  8. Bethel Grove Church Activity Center - 1749 Slaterville Road, Bethel Grove (map).
  9. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  10. Reach Out for Christ Church - 318 Johnson Road, Freeville (map).
  11. Dryden Baptist Chapel - 138 Virgil Road, Dryden (map).

All polling places for Dryden are the same this year as they were last year. If you'd like to see a sample ballot, the Board of Elections has them.

This morning's Journal lists polling places for the whole county. They also report that McLean, Dryden, and Freeville fire companies were among those responding to a Groton chimney fire, and that a little less than one in four NYSEG customers participated in "Voice Your Choice" this year.

Posted by simon at 8:09 AM Comment

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I probably should have posted on this earlier, but it's not precisely a Dryden story. Angelika and I will be giving a review of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle tomorrow at noon in Corning, at the Corning--Southeast Steuben County Library.

We'll be looking at Kingsolver's year of local eating and its implications in the light of our six months (so far) of eating locally, focusing on just what's involved and what you learn by doing it.

I'll post more of a report when we're back!

Posted by simon at 8:59 AM Comment

Pancakes, pottery for DC3

This weekend will be a busy one for supporters of the Dryden Community Center Cafe, according to Wendy Martin, its Director.

On Saturday morning, Sertoma will be having its pancake breakfast, I believe at the Dryden Fire Hall, from 7:30am to 11:00am, benefiting the Cafe. Admission is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for kids 5-12, and free for kids under 5.

Friday through Sunday, Jacques Schickel of Maryhill Clayworks will be holding his annual pottery sale, at the Cafe, to benefit the Cafe. He'll be open from 10am to 6pm each of those days.

They'll also have artwork by local elementary and middle school students on display, but they won't yet be serving coffee. They're getting closer to being a real cafe, though!

Posted by simon at 11:20 PM Comment

February 6, 2008

Obama wins in Dryden, Tompkins

I'd suspected that Barack Obama would win Tompkins County (and lose New York State), but I hadn't expected it to be as broad as last night's results indicate. In Dryden, Obama beat Hillary Clinton 804-717, while countywide it was 6593-4647. The only places Clinton carried were Enfield and Groton, with Lansing very close.

Clinton does appear to have carried the 24th Congressional district, which is how delegates representing Dryden are assigned, but it looks like it'll be three delegates for Clinton and two for Obama.

On the Republican side, John McCain appears to have carried Dryden and every other municipality in the county. In Dryden, McCain got 381 votes to Mitt Romney's 217, Mike Huckabee's 138, and Ron Paul's 56. For the county, it was 1927-1093-540-337.

For the first time ever, I made my decision in the voting booth, and went with Obama. I'll be happy with either Democratic candidate, though I still miss John Edwards.

We now return to our usual local programming...

Posted by simon at 8:33 AM Comment

Crazy food weekend - pancakes and chocolate

If you wake up hungry on either Saturday or Sunday, you're in luck. There are pancake breakfasts both days, and the Etna Chocolate Fest on Saturday as well.

  • On Saturday morning from 7:30am to 11:00am, Sertoma will be having its pancake breakfast, I believe at the Dryden Fire Hall, benefiting the Dryden Community Center Cafe. Admission is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for kids 5-12, and free for kids under 5.

  • Also on Saturday morning, from 10:00am to noon, the Etna Community Association will be having their 8th annual Chocolate Fest. "You can buy a little - tastes of everything are just 25¢ each - or a lot - slices and whole desserts to fit any budget. Taste it there or take it with you. Coffee, hot chocolate, and milk are complimentary, and all proceeds help maintain the Etna playground, historic Houtz Hall, and the work of the Etna Community Association. Door prizes have been donated by Dryden businesses."

  • And on Sunday morning, the Varna Community Association's pancake breakfast will be at the Varna Community Center, 943 Dryden Road, in Varna (map) from 8:00am to noon. We always have pancakes, french toast, bacon, ham, eggs, and potatoes, and lately we've added sausage gravy and biscuits. I can never remember the prices, but it's $5 or $6 for adults, and there's a frequent diner card that earns free meals for repeat visitors.

So if you wake up hungry this weekend, lots of good folks are waiting to fill you up.

Posted by simon at 6:10 PM Comment

Local eating, local gardening, nearby talk

I've posted a report on the book review and reflections on our own local eating project that Angelika and I presented in Corning today over at An Hour a Day in the Garden.

Posted by simon at 10:31 PM Comment

February 7, 2008

A bank mystery

I wish I could remember who told me this, but there's an ad in the classifieds of the Ithaca Journal (page 8C today) with yellow highlighting that's from someone looking to buy First National Bank of Dryden stock.

Anyone know what that's about?

Posted by simon at 10:20 PM Comment

February 8, 2008

Manos convicted

Last night, the jury found Marie Manos guilty of the second-degree murder of her niece on May 15th. (I'd missed noting yesterday's article on the defense in the trial.)

On the opinion page, Maureen Brull of Dryden encourages readers to support Clinton over Obama, and on yesterday's opinion page Murray Cohen of Dryden wrote 'to suggest that "Martin Luther King Jr. Day" be changed to "African-American Leaders' Day."'

Posted by simon at 8:55 AM Comment

February 9, 2008

Pondering the Journal

I just went down to the road to get my paper, and there wasn't one there. (Update: One showed up, just unusually late.) I'd just received a bill from them yesterday, the 8th, asking for payment from 2/7/2008 to 1/31/2009, so maybe I should just count myself lucky that I got the last couple of papers. (I'd been thinking it had been a very long time since I'd seen a bill from them, but...)

Their customer service seems remarkably awful. I've had no luck stopping my paper with their automated service. When I asked that my held paper count as credit toward future papers I was always told by the machine that my papers would be donated to Gannett's school programs. The paper wouldn't get held anyway while I was gone - or worse, it wouldn't get held while I was gone and then suddenly stop for a while when I was back. This last holiday I called and their automated system was down, so I actually got to talk with a human. It didn't matter. Once again, the paper continued to arrive while we were away. Fortunately the person feeding our cats brought in a pile of papers.

At the same time, their news coverage, with the sole exception of crime reporting, also seems to be spiraling into decline. They've gone from having multiple reporters covering the towns to having one reporter covering the towns and the county. I'm not sure when I last saw a Journal reporter at a Town Board meeting. More and more of their articles are sourced from the Binghamton and Elmira papers, a constant drumbeat toward consolidation into an even weaker newspaper that covers broad area lightly.

Hmmm.... I mostly keep getting the paper delivered because it's much easier to look through it for Dryden-related articles in the print edition, and for the Life section. Every now and then there's a print-only insert worth reading, or a classified worth noting. I'm not sure that's enough to justify $182.79 a year any longer, but we'll see. I guess the Journal's brilliant billing approach does give me the opportunity to see how life without the print edition of the paper is for a few days. It's also good reason to call the Cortland Standard again and see if they'll deliver this far west yet.

Any thoughts? Anyone else out there wishing the Ithaca paper had a little more interest in their surrounding area?

Posted by simon at 9:00 AM Comment

Housing costs and transportation costs

This morning's Journal continues their Touched by Poverty series, looking at the cost of housing. I'm happy to see that they recognize the cost of transportation as a critical related factor:

"Students of housing policy would point out that housing is not so much a product as it is a process: employment, transportation," Laquatra said. "So do you attack the problem through job training programs and give people the skills to increase their access to resources? You can't look at housing in isolation."

Transportation is one of the key issues to keeping some people off the streets and out of shelters, Ward said.

People can find affordable housing in the county's outlying areas of Groton, Freeville, Danby or Dryden, but without reliable transportation for late and early work shifts, getting back and forth to a job in the city becomes difficult.

"We can get them an apartment in Groton, we can get them to work, but we can't get them home," Ward said.

It is a struggle that Sandra Carpenter knows all too well.

"I'm dealing with that right now," said Carpenter, who was living in the Red Cross' emergency shelter in early January. "In the outskirts you do not get early bus services to commute to work on time. I reassured my boss right now that I was going to stay in the City of Ithaca so that I could get back and forth to work. Between the housing cost and bus lines that run outside the city, it's ridiculous. You can't live outside the city if you want to work inside the city."

Carpenter works as a housekeeper for the Holiday Inn, earning $7.25 an hour.

Her shift starts at 8 a.m., but the buses don't run from Dryden and Freeville early enough for her to get to work, she said.

Even where I am, on Route 366 and the 43 line, you can't leave here before 7:20am or leave Ithaca after 6:30pm, and there's no weekend service.

I worry that our lack of attention to affordable housing in this county for the past few decades has created an even larger problem - we concentrated cheap housing in Dryden's trailer parks, in places without a lot of surrounding services or jobs. Now the cost of gas is climbing. The parks don't have great bus service either, and as the cost of gasoline climbs, lots of people are going to have a much harder time getting around.

Talking about low-income housing and busing seems to bother a fair number of people, even some elected officials, who seem to think that transportation people can afford creates problems. Somehow we need to get past that, and figure out ways to make it possible for the people who work in Tompkins County to live in Tompkins County. We have 11,000 in-commuters now, and while I'm sure that some of them are enjoying palatial homes on far-off hillsides, I'm guessing that none of them are happy about their increasing transportation costs. We could reduce a lot of those costs if we were willing to look at ways to improve the bus system and ways to improve housing for all income levels in Tompkins County.

(Joe Laquatra, cited in the article above, is also on the Town of Dryden Planning Board, which gives me a little more hope for the future. The Journal also notes County Planning's interest in these issues, which would be great if they were better at connecting with and listening to communities.)

They also have articles on home ownership classes, housing for the elderly, possible ways to address transportation issues, comparing the cost of buying and renting, how heating costs factor in, some statistics on housing, and income eligibility for public housing.

There's an article on postcards of Tompkins County that shows a 1914 view of Main Street in the Village of Dryden that's worth contrasting with today's torrent of cars passing through.

In college news, the Journal reports that Sharon Andrus of Freeville earned a doctorate from SUNY Albany in history-public history.

There's also an article in the Journal about cutting the costs of special districts that I don't think applies to Dryden. We have plenty of special water, sewer, and lighting districts but the Town Board administers them, not a separately paid board. The McLean Fire District covers the northeast corner of the town, but they have elected Fire Commissioners.

Posted by simon at 9:16 AM Comment

Busy Saturday morning

As I noted earlier, it's a busy weekend for food in Dryden. Angelika and I started out with a trip to the Sertoma pancake breakfast at the Dryden Fire Station.

Sertoma pancake breakfast
Sertoma pancake breakfast.

Then we went to the Dryden Community Center Cafe, where they were having a pottery sale (thanks to Jacques Schickel of Maryhill Clayworks) and working on building the cafe.

Pottery sale
Pottery sale at Dryden Community Center Cafe.

Evan Kurtz works on building
Evan Kurtz works on building the Dryden Community Center Cafe.

Then, for the grand finale, we went to the Etna Chocolate Fest, and had a delicious set of chocolates for $3.50.

Chocolate paradise
A paradise of chocolate at the Etna Community Center.

Dryden's many community activities make for a great Saturday morning. And tomorrow, there's the Varna pancake breakfast too!

Posted by simon at 12:39 PM Comment

"Democracy broke out"

I have to love this AP story on the New York Primary: First there's the title: "Analysis: Despite bosses' plans, voters won in NY primary". Then, in the details, we get to remember why the primary moved up, and what the unexpected result was:

Thank New York party bosses and the state Legislature for giving New York voters a chance of mattering in the presidential primary season this year.

And voters responded - loudly.

More than 33 percent of Democrats voted and 20 percent of Republicans voted. Most New York primaries have had turnouts in the teens, and were too late to make much of a difference in the national race. Even in 2000, just 19 percent of New York Democrats and 22.5 percent of Republicans came out in what would become the historically close George Bush-Al Gore election.

But democracy wasn't the first thought on party leaders' minds a year ago when they moved up New York's primary by a month to be part of the 24-state Super Tuesday, before any candidate had a lock on a nomination.

Eleven months ago, the Legislature overwhelmingly voted to move the 2008 primary with just two people in mind: Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. Lawmakers figured the sure New York win for the pair of New Yorkers would give them a boost to the White House when they needed it most - early.

I can't help smiling about this. The leaders of both parties hoped to deliver New York State to their preferred candidates at a time when it would matter more. Instead, the much larger effect was an awakening of voters suddenly given a choice that mattered.

I'd really like to imagine that voters will stay this interested in other primaries, but know it's unlikely. I know that this seems to be the season of national discontent for New York voters, and I'm hoping that much of that discontent is eased over the next few years.

Still, it's worth pausing to consider what New York State's own politics might look like if we had a vibrant culture of contested primaries and contested races, showing voters again and again that their votes matter. I don't think it's impossible to get there - but it will take some change, not all of which is likely to happen, as this did, because party leaders mistakenly think it's in their interest.

Posted by simon at 1:30 PM Comment

February 12, 2008

Diet pill theft

I'm not quite sure why diet pills are so exciting, but it looks like someone been shoplifting them in Dryden and Trumansburg.

Looking further out, there's a piece on the county workforce, an article on a consortium including TC3 to shift purchasing to green products, and bad news on the state budget that may affect the county budget.

The Journal's editorial looks at housing as one issue in poverty, and opens with a quote from Freeville resident (and Dryden Planning Board member) Joe LaQuatra.

Posted by simon at 11:32 AM Comment

February 13, 2008

Town Board meeting tonight, 7:00pm

I can't make it to tonight's meeting, but here's the agenda. The 284 agreement specifies which town roads will receive which maintenance, and is usually interesting. The work on an Annual Report should be interesting to hear about as well.

Posted by simon at 3:19 PM Comment

February 14, 2008

Practitioners moving about

I'm still catching up from a couple of days in New York City, but Cathy Wakeman wrote yesterday about medical professionals moving from practice to practice. She also notes a grant that helped Southworth Library buy 54 new children's books.

Weather seems not to have caused too much trouble for the county's 911 center. Coming up from New York yesterday on the bus, there were lots of cars and trucks off the side between Monticello and Binghamton, and then it seemed to get a bit easier.

Yesterday's Monitor reports a drug arrest in Freeville and a DWI in Dryden. Today's Monitor has another DWI.

A story that probably should be in the Journal but isn't, on the Dryden schools' budget, is fortunately in the Cortland Standard.

Posted by simon at 12:30 PM Comment

February 16, 2008

Attempted entry at Dryden Elementary

Maybe it's nothing, maybe it's something, but a man who tried to convince third-graders to let him in to Dryden Elementary is raising concerns. The third-graders did as they were supposed to, and didn't let him in through the locked doors.

New York's bizarre combination of gambling and education money is coming to the surface as the state works to bail out its main horse racing organization and increase the share of video lottery income held by the operators. I wish we'd just drop the lie that "it's for education", because it really isn't.

In higher education news, the Dean's List includes students from Dryden, Freeville, and at least one Dryden resident listed as Ithaca.

And the Rite-Aid Drug Quiz, which includes students from Dryden, will be March 4th at the Clarion Hotel in Ithaca.

There are also How They Voted in Washington and How They Voted in Albany. In the latter, I was glad to see the Assembly passed the Great Lakes Compact 134-0; the Senate also seems to have passed it. Unfortunately, states further west seem inclined to give in to Republican tinkering that could force renegotiation of the whole thing. For a bit more background, see this piece from NYCO and this piece on Upstate New York and water.

Posted by simon at 9:59 AM Comment

Dryden seeks superintendent, green energy

Once again, the Dryden Courier sparkles as the one place in town to find in-depth news on the Town of Dryden. One issue of the Courier is easily worth two weeks of the Ithaca Journal or Cortland Standard. Of course, lots of people still don't know it exists, but they should.

The front page leads with an article on the Dryden school district's hiring of Castallo & Silky, a school superintendent search firm, as they look for a permanent superintendent. For $13,000, they hope to find a new superintendent by April.

There's also an article on Dryden Town Councilman David Makar's efforts to shift the Town's electricity-buying to renewables, especially wind, following the model of Caroline. In Caroline, local residents donate to make up the difference in cost between wind energy and regular coal-based service.

The cover picture is of Nadia Shevchenko reading at the Southworth Library, which page 15 notes received a recent grant to buy children's books.

Inside, the opinion page has a tale from Managing Editor Bill Chaisson on people helping out when his pipes froze, and his looking forward to helping them out next time. I'm glad to have only had one frozen pipe, caused by an unexpectedly open window, which we caught in time to avoid damage. I'm glad to hear it worked out for him, and hopefully we can all support each other when these things happen.

The Village of Dryden police logs from January 20th to February 10th bulge with traffic violations, plus a bit of petit larceny.

In sports, there's a report of Dryden boys basketball's victory over Elmira Notre Dame, as well as a third-place finish for boys swimming at the Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

There's a lot more detail on TC3's shifting from security guards to peace officers carrying guns than I've seen elswhere, including discussion of the impact of new dormitories and the Virginia Tech shooting last year. They will be hiring a director of public safety as well.

In View From A Dryden Window, Kelly Horrocks visits Southworth Library. She's completely correct when she writes:

The Southworth Library stands in the center of Dryden as arguably the loveliest edifice in town, but also as an object that defies physics. It is seemingly bigger on the inside than on the outside.

She notes a number of Southworth Library services, including the Traveling Books program, which takes books to daycare centers in large canvas bags.

In Ancedotes and Brevities, Harry Weldon talks about William Seward's failed hopes to become the Republican nominee for President in 1860, waiting at home in Auburn for news that didn't quite work out. It reminded me that my great-grandmother was apparently fired on her first day working at the Seward House, then owned by Seward's son. Unused to such a fine place, she mistook a spittoon for a vase and place it on the mantel. That didn't go over well, and may explain why my family has had few Republicans.

More recently, I learned (thanks to Mark Robinson up in Groton) that there's another piece to that story - Brigham Young, Mormon patriarch, apparently built that mantel while working as a young carpenter in Auburn. Upstate New York: it's where everything's connected.

Posted by simon at 4:32 PM Comment

February 18, 2008

Dryden Democratic primary details

I was curious what the district-by-district breakdown of election results was, given that Groton Democrats seemed unified in cheering on Hillary Clinton while Dryden Democrats were divided. The Board of Elections has posted final results, so I can take a closer look. (They did combine a few districts, though.)

1+5West Dryden, Etna115101
3+7East and North of Village of Dryden, to McLean9861
4+9Varna to Ellis Hollow Road198275
6Village of Dryden west of 13/386967
8Snyder Hill, Bethel Grove89197
10Southeastern Hills5557
11Dryden Lake7238

The northern and eastern edges of Dryden generally went for Clinton, while southern and western went for Obama. District 11 went nearly 2-1 for Clinton, while District 8 went more than 2-1 for Obama. I'm a little surprised by the tie in Freeville and the two vote margin in the western half of the Village of Dryden as well as the southeastern hills, all of which I'd have guessed to be more likely Clinton.

(Groton Democrats voted for Clinton 253-146, while Cortland County Democrats went for Clinton 2204-992.)

Posted by simon at 1:14 PM Comment

Dryden Republican primary details

The primary results for the Republicans are less regionally inflected.

1+5West Dryden, Etna9351348
3+7East and North of Village of Dryden, to McLean6252152
4+9Varna to Ellis Hollow Road18271461
6Village of Dryden west of 13/3811382858
8Snyder Hill, Bethel Grove2221435
10Southeastern Hills2221549
11Dryden Lake2291246

McCain wins everywhere. Romney comes in second everywhere. Huckabee comes in third everywhere, except in Varna/Ellis Hollow, where Paul beats him. Paul comes in fourth everywhere else. (I left Giuliani off, as he only got 19 votes across the town.)

The most interesting statistic I see is in the combined districts 4+9, where 66% of eligible Republicans turned out. (64% of Democrats turned out in that district, and 69% in District 8.) Overall, Republicans had 35% turnout while Democrats had 53% turnout - for 1550 Democrats and 883 Republicans.

Posted by simon at 3:25 PM Comment

February 19, 2008

TC3 master plan; Freeville fire

This morning's Ithaca Journal looks at the approaching completion of TC3's master plan for construction, and talks with President Carl Haynes about the expansion and direction of the school.

There's also an article on a Sunday night apartment fire in Freeville that injured one firefighter. All five Dryden fire departments (Freeville leading, and Dryden, Varna, Etna, McLean) plus Lansing and Cayuga Heights were on the scene.

Their editorial looks at the continuing importance of expanding transparency in government.

Road repair

The Cortland Standard reports on the Town of Dryden's plans for road repair in 2008.

Posted by simon at 8:28 AM Comment

February 20, 2008

Amphibians, reptiles, to visit Varna Saturday

Now here's a good way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon!

Amphibians and Reptiles are coming to the Varna Community Center on February 23

The Cornell Herpetological Club will be coming to the Varna Community Center on Saturday, February 23rd from 2-4PM to educate children on the fun and exciting world of amphibians and reptiles. Students from the group will be on hand with life animals, specimens, books, and other materials for children and families. They will spend the afternoon giving information, telling stories, sharing research, and opening up visitors to the wonderful world of snakes, lizards, toads, frogs, newts, and salamanders.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend this exciting event with the students of the Cornell Herpetological Society and bring their children and friends. The Varna Community Center is located at 943 Dryden Road, Route 366, just one mile from Cornell Orchards. For more information, contact the community center at 272-2658.

Refreshments will be served. We look forward to seeing you there!

Posted by simon at 8:33 AM Comment

February 21, 2008

Parenting workshops in Dryden

I always like to see Cooperative Extension classes held around the county, and this looks good:

Parenting - the Hardest Job in the World: Parenting Skills Workshop Series

Learn how to talk with your child (any age) using the five communication skills: Encouragement, Can Do, Choices, Self Control, and Respecting Feelings.

  • Share your strengths-learn new strategies

  • A class for every parent

  • Every parent comes out with something new

Join: Mary Hicks and Judy Horn

When: Wednesday evenings, 6:00 -8:00 p.m., February 27, March 5, 12, 19, 26, April 2, 9, 23

Where: Dryden Elementary School, 36 Union St., Dryden

This free workshop series is sponsored by Tompkins County Cooperative Extension, Dryden Central School, and Dryden PTA. Call 272-2292 to register.

Posted by simon at 11:46 AM Comment

West Dryden boy doing better

The Journal has an update on Robbie Busby, reporting that his cancer is in remission. He'll be heading back to Freeville Elementary School after fighting off Burkitt's lymphoma and getting support from the community through a benefit concert earlier this month.

Yesterday's paper had a Q & A with Congressman Mike Arcuri and a broader article.

There was also an article on hearings about Iberdrola's planned takeover of NYSEG.

Finally, this piece on lobbyists hosting Spitzer fundraisers led me to complain about "Day One" not having changed much.

Posted by simon at 12:26 PM Comment

Reviving downtown Dryden

Last night's Cortland Standard had an article on the challenges facing small-town downtowns, including the Village of Dryden. Village Mayor Reba Taylor gets the pull quote in the print version - "I think a thriving downtown is always a good thing." - but her discussion of how to get there seems to be doom and gloom, without much thought given to what the Village itself could do to help the situation:

In Dryden, a fair number of businesses have moved from downtown to other locations in the village where they could build or rent new buildings in such areas as along Route 13.

It's good those businesses are still around, but too bad downtown is suffering in the meantime, according to Mayor Reba Taylor.

"I think a thriving downtown is always a good thing," Taylor said, noting it provides a more personal shopping experience.

Recreating a busy downtown climate might be a lost cause, Taylor said, with the current driving culture. But things could change somewhat if downtown Dryden had better parking, or at least signs to show people where public lots are located, Taylor said. A Chamber of Commerce or business association could be talking about that and related issues, she said, but interest doesn't seem to be there.

"I have tried on numerous occasions to get some sort of business association together," Taylor said. "I have never had any luck. ...We've brought people together a few times when collecting money for Christmas (for holiday decorations) in December, but nothing seems to last more than a year or two."

"Too bad... lost cause... interest doesn't seem to be there... never any luck... nothing seems to last more than a year or two."

Perhaps the Mayor was severely edited, as somehow there's no mention of a group that's been talking about the importance of downtown Dryden since its inception, and which has made amazing strides thanks to volunteers - the Dryden Community Center Cafe. I know she was at the first meeting, but maybe it's not quite the Chamber of Commerce she's looking for?

It's also strange to me that the Town of Dryden seems to be pushing hard to revive a walking culture in the Village of Dryden, while Taylor appears to think it's a lost cause. The Town's supported the Community Cafe with a grant, and continues to work on extending and maintaining the Jim Schug trail, which has easy access in the Village. Figuring out how to encourage TC3 students to walk to downtown without disrupting residents was also a key part of the conversation at the January Town Board meeting about the new TC3 dormitories. The Town Hall property itself seems likely, whatever development path the Board chooses, to have lots of pedestrian-oriented features. It's great that the Town is helping the Village as part of its broader responsibilities.

It's good that there are still a lot of people pushing hard to help downtown Dryden live up to its potential.

Posted by simon at 12:53 PM Comment

February 22, 2008

Short on salt

Dryden Highway Superintendent Jack Bush is quoted in an article this morning about a shortage of road salt from Cargill's Lansing mine:

With 1-3 inches of snow being predicted for today by the Cornell Northeast Regional Climate Center, Dryden highway superintendent Jack Bush said residents shouldn't expect every street to be bare.

"If all the temperatures are colder, where we don't have 32 degrees and sunny weather, the roads aren't going to be bare, especially in the shaded areas," he said.

Bush ordered 200 tons of salt from Cargill last week and got 90 tons. He borrowed an additional 16 tons from Lansing, where Cargill is located. Lansing is in good shape for salt, highway superintendent Jack French said, as it picked up 1,000 tons last Thursday. James Meeker in Ulysses said he ordered 400 tons and has only seen 40 tons....

Cargill mine manager Steve Horne said the salt shortage is an industry-wide problem this winter from the Midwest to the Northeast....

Instead of salting some roads, towns use sand, which comes at a fraction of the cost of salt, but becomes a mess in the spring and requires cleanup.

Bush said in Dryden there are some roads where sand is used exclusively.

I think the Town is working on a salt storage shed this year, which might make it easier for Dryden to deal with unreliable supply.

There's a possibility that villages might see more state aid next year. The chart in the print edition shows Dryden with a possible 58.5% increase recommended by the comptroller, but doesn't list Freeville. In dollars, the increase for Dryden would be from $11,239 to $17,819 - huge in percentage terms, not that large in dollars. It's probably also wise to be cautious about the odds of this increase happening in any case - it's a proposal from the Comptroller, not something in the budget.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

February 23, 2008

SWAT team called to Sheldon Road

This morning's Journal reports on a standoff on Sheldon Road Thursday night and Friday that led to the SWAT team coming in. Fortunately it was resolved through negotiation.

There's also How They Voted in the Tompkins County Legislature. The only surprising vote I see is a lone 'no' by Mike Hattery on approving a contract with the white-collar unit of the CSEA.

Posted by simon at 11:03 AM Comment

Reptile invasion

A crowd of reptiles and their amphibian allies descended on Varna this afternoon:

The lizard that ate Varna.
The lizard that ate Varna.

Fortunately, they were in the care of the Cornell Herpetological Society, and were there to educate and entertain.

Gecko hanging out.
Gecko hanging out.

Angelika and I wandered down to the community center to see the creatures, and came back with some good ideas for adding rockpiles to our garden to attract snakes that should help eat our slug and rodent populations. The people presenting were interesting, and the displays, especially the touchable ones, were fascinating.

Crowd at VCA.
Crowd at VCA.

If you'd like to see more, I've posted a gallery.

Posted by simon at 4:34 PM Comment

February 25, 2008

A calmer take on reptiles

This morning's Journal goes for cute photos of reptiles with children at Saturday's Varna event rather than my scaremongering "lizard that ate Varna." Oh well - they're a bit more accurate.

There's also a piece on water quality in the Finger Lakes that's a nice overview to questions about why protecting Fall Creek matters.

On the opinion page, County Republican Committee Chair Mike Sigler of Lansing trots out a very tired old Republican chestnut, that Democrats are "people beholden to downstate interests". The Republican Senate constantly funnels education and other money Downstate, to wealthy Long Island and Westchester districts that aren't really desperate for cash. Sure, they don't like New York City, but has their hostility actually made things better for Upstate?

I dislike Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver as much as any Republican I've ever spoken to, and long for an end to his perverse reign. At the same time, though, it's hard to think about the prospect of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno falling without breaking into cheers. The hard question isn't whether we need to remove these people from power - yes, we do - but the more practical challenges of how, and what comes after.

Posted by simon at 12:27 PM Comment

Methodist Church serving meals

This week's Dryden Courier is, as usual, packed with Dryden news.

There's an article on the Dryden United Methodist Church, which is serving a free meal on the fourth Wednesday of every month. They'd like to expand to more nights, if there is demand.

There's also an article on the February Town Board meeting, and the Town's search for more grants. The Board held its first public hearing toward an application for a Community Development Block Grant, building on success with them in 1995, 1997, and 1999.

The editorial urges residents of local villages to vote, which for Village of Dryden residents will be March 18th.

On Campus notes that Adam Sutton of Dryden earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from SUNY Binghamton, and Samantha Vitale was named to the Dean's List at SUNY Oneonta.

In "View From a Dryden Window", Kelly Horrocks reflects on the history in local cemeteries, especially Green Hills Cemetery in the Village of Dryden.

In Sports, Dryden swimming placed fifth in the Class B championships, and Tara Brenner of the Track team was named an athlete of the week for setting "the Section IV indoor reord during last weekend's championship at Cornell."

There's an article called "Crossed Wires at Bethel Grove," which looks at some recent conflict over who is running the Bethel Grove Community Center and complications that has created for the Town.

Posted by simon at 5:57 PM Comment

February 26, 2008

Cornell to study garbage traffic

This morning's Journal was quiet about Dryden, though there's mention of a Cornell study on the impact of garbage traffic moving through Tompkins County on its way to Seneca Meadows. Route 79 is one of the roads being examined.

Posted by simon at 8:17 PM Comment

Lots of wind

Every now and then, people are surprised that I'm not a huge advocate of wind farms. I wasn't too certain at the outset of the Cornell proposal for towers on Mount Pleasant, but by the time the project suddenly halted, I was very happy that it hadn't gone further.

When the Town passed an alternative energy ordinance, I applauded their supporting small-scale wind energy without opening the door to massive windmills. When we were in Germany, seeing different kinds of windmills confirmed my aesthetic doubts about the huge ones, though aesthetics aren't really enough of a reason to oppose large-scale wind energy generation.

Finally, I think I figured out and wrote up why I'm not automatically a supporter of large-scale wind. Mostly it comes down to the basic problem of not trusting the people who want to build these, and realizing that the consequences aren't all bright. I'm glad that Dryden has taken a sensible course of allowing residential wind without jumping all the way into industrial-scale generation for profit.

I'm not sure how long it'll stay that way here, as I know my views aren't shared by everyone - but for the moment, at least, I'm pretty pleased with the way things have turned out.

If I had a property where it was possible, I'd be putting up a windmill. I may yet put up solar hot water or even solar panels. I encourage readers of this site to consider the same, and I think the Town itself might be wise to add a windmill given the constant wind on that hillside. (It would make a nice combination with the geothermal heat that's already there.

We can do lots of sensible things on a small scale without jumping into the energy business.

Posted by simon at 8:36 PM Comment

Jim Seward could fall

Lake Ontario's shores aren't exactly downtown Dryden, but they saw an election today that I think has a lot to say to Dryden's current State Senator, Jim Seward.

For years, he's seemed impregnable in a district where registration was overwhelmingly Republican - at the last count, this Abraham Lincoln riding a vacuum cleaner gerrymander of a district has 51,346 registered Democratic votes to 77,656 Republican voters out of a total of 180,129 voters.

The 48th Senate District has 46,824 Democrats to 78,454 Republicans, out of a total of 171,062 voters. It tilts even more Republican than our district.

Tonight, it looks like Darrel Aubertine (D) pulled off a win in a special election up there, despite a snowstorm. Right now, the Syracuse Post-Standard is reporting 27,901 for Aubertine and 25,345 for his Republican opponent, Will Barclay. There are 4251 absentee ballots out there, but it would take a lot to change that result.

Even a moderately close race would have been a bad sign for our Republican State Senate, but an outright Democratic win has to be devastating for them.

I'm thinking that we can repeat this in November in the 51st, hopefully with Don Barber of Caroline as the Democratic candidate. I've felt that it was possible for a while, because of the presidential race this year, but now it feels really possible.

(Removing Joe Bruno will lower my blood pressure considerably; we just have to make sure that we don't re-create him. And removing Sheldon Silver would make me happy too, though I haven't yet figured out how that might happen.)

Oh, and if you want to help Don Barber take on Jim Seward, it's easy to make a contribution.

Posted by simon at 10:14 PM Comment

February 27, 2008

State liable for falsified evidence

This morning's Ithaca Journal has a story on the continuing echoes of one of the darker stories of Dryden's past, the Harris family murders of 1989. The New York State Court of Claims - which pretty much decides which lawsuits against the state are allowed to proceed - ruled that Shirley Kinge can collect damages against the state as a result of the State Police lab's failure to supervise an investigator who falsified a fingerprint that was supposedly on a gas can in the garage of the house. Kinge was convicted on the basis of the fingerprints, plus her use of credit cards taken during the murders, and served 18 months in prison before being released because of the evidence problem. Her son, Michael Kinge, died in a shootout with police at his Etna apartment.

The Journal notes a key part of the decision, in which the judge is plainly not happy with any of the participants in the story:

"Notwithstanding the fact that the court has found in her favor, claimant should take no satisfaction in this decision," Midey wrote. "She should be ashamed of her criminal conduct. However, throughout history a crucial question for society has been how to protect its citizens from abuses by those individuals who swear to guard them and enforce the laws. Put another way, who guards the guardians? The answer is: the Courts."

Posted by simon at 12:20 PM Comment

Dryden present, too

There's also a lot of news about current happenings in Dryden today in the Journal.

Cathy Wakeman reports on three Dryden residents who bicycled from Dryden to San Diego this fall, leaving Dryden on September 18th and arriving in San Diego on December 12th. She also notes that the Dryden Hall of Fame committee will be meeting February 28th, that the High School fitness room is open to the public weekdays from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, and that there will be a parenting skills workshop starting tonight.

The Journal tells the brightening but hardly sugar-coated story of Grasen Alexander, who missed a year of school because of complications from cerebral palsy. There will be a chicken barbecue for him at the McLean Fire Station this Friday, February 29th, at 4:00pm, with a benefit party at the Dryden Fire Hall on Saturday, March 1st, from 11:00am to 4:00pm.

In the Ithaca schools, the district had to discard school lunch food because of its connection to a gigantic and none too pleasant beef recall.

On the opinion page, Dan Karig of Bethel Grove writes about sediment in Cayuga Lake, much of which originates in Dryden's streams and creeks.

Posted by simon at 12:31 PM Comment

Prettiest snow

I know this stuff is really inconvenient, and I'm glad I don't have to go out today, but wow - this is gorgeous. Every now and then the sun even lights it up.

Snow-covered driveway and trees.
Snow-covered driveway and trees.

Amazing - even power lines can be pretty once in a while.

The chickens, of course, are hiding in their nice dry coop, which is now better insulated than it's been for a while. I'm extra-glad that they finally learned to use the roosting bar across the middle, which gives them a bit more space.

Snow-covered chicken coop.
Snow-covered chicken coop.

It's pretty heavy snow - I worry what'll happen if we get much wind - but for now it's amazing.

Posted by simon at 12:50 PM Comment

February 28, 2008

Seward concerned, but won't push

I'm a little annoyed tonight at what Downstate legislators are proposing for Downstate, but I'm completely baffled by our own State Senator, Jim Seward.

The Oneonta Daily Star's editorial for today concludes:

Joyce Boyd, Otsego County's acting Social Services Commissioner, agreed that the state-set allotments for homeless people are unrealistically low. So low, in fact, that "people are forced to move in with friends and relatives," she said.

State Sen. James Seward agrees that the allotment is too low and would support an increase. But he's not willing to push the legislation himself, putting the onus on the governor, who has not put forth a proposal.

Apparently there are not too many state lawmakers, who make at least $80,000 a year and are allotted about $150 a day for room and board while in Albany, willing to go to bat for the poor or unfortunate. That's a shame.

He agrees that the state should spend more on this, but there's no way that he'd actually put his own political effort into it, because he'd really prefer if the Governor proposed spending the money? I'd like the Governor to do that, but wow, this doesn't make Seward look good. Maybe he can safely say things like this because he figures it'll all come down to Three Men in a Room anyway, and someday he might be asked to rubber-stamp the decision?

I have to guess this is standard operating procedure for our cheerlessly cynical New York State Senate. But then, they only make $79,500 a year, so what should we expect, right?

Posted by simon at 5:31 PM Comment

February 29, 2008

Coffee today, chowder tomorrow

Just a quick reminder - the Dryden Community Center Cafe is open today for a test run, with music as well from 7:00pm to 9:00pm.

Tomorrow, the Varna Community Association will be having:

our first All You Can Eat Chowder Buffet Dinner. Please come and join us for a variety of soups and chowders along with salad, fruit, fresh bread, cornbread, and homemade pies for dessert, and support the center's fundraising event.

The Chowder Dinner will be at the Varna Community Center, 943 Dryden Road, in Varna (map) from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.

Posted by simon at 4:38 PM Comment